It’s the (Unsustainable) Economy, Stupid: Promoting Employment & Economic Growth for All

Nearly 2.2 billion people worldwide live below the $2 poverty line and the United Nations has stated the only escape for these people is through stable and well-paid employment for economic growth, or Sustainable Development Goal 8.

Source: UN Photo


Global unemployment increased from 170 million in 2007 to nearly 202 million in 2012, of which about 75 million are young women and men. For obvious reasons, unemployment is bad for people, economies, states and development. Without the means to live as financially independent consumers, people are forced to resort to unorthodox, and often dangerous, ways of making a living. Areas with higher rates of unemployment have higher crime rates, more health-related issues, and less educational opportunities. In a larger context, this hinders a state’s, and humanity’s, ability to develop.

Pay & Youth

There are 780 million men and women who are working, but still not earning enough to lift their families out of poverty. Inadequate pay is an issue that varies depending on the country, but in developing countries, it is especially dangerous for youth. Often, parents who are not earning enough to provide for their families are forced to send their children to work early, interrupting their education and dissipating any opportunity they would have to escape poverty in their own future. This unfortunate situation creates a cycle of poverty in families and communities where child labor is a necessity for survival.

This past June, the United Nations spent Micro, Small, and Medium-sized Enterprises Day focusing on the contribution and importance of encouraging youth entrepreneurship and self-employment. This recognition is important on the global stage as they urge world leaders to support sustainable self-employment, skill building, and financial sustenance for youth entrepreneurship.

Conditions (Decent Work)

A good-paying job is useless without decent working conditions. This means that no one should be employed where safety, equal opportunity, and social protections to the workers and their families are not a priority. Poor working conditions lead to various health issues and decreases the quality of life for the employees and the community.


In order to create a sustainable economy and unwavering economic growth, diversifying the workforce and its sectors is vital. Diversification promotes investment in human capital, and shifts nations’ economies away from being dependent on one industry, reducing risk of economic downfall in the even that their primary industry fluctuates or collapses.

Ahead of this September’s World Tourism Day, the United Nations has encouraged countries in the African continent to explore the possibilities that harnessing growth of the tourism sector could bring to their economies. This year, the United Nations has stressed the significance of sustainability in the tourism industry, and declared 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.

The Role of the State

So, what can the state do to help? Governments are encouraged to implement policies that prohibit employers from endangering workers, protect workers’ rights, provide social protections, promote gender equality, and allow the growth of local entrepreneurship. Additionally, governments can invest in technology, youth education, and professional training, so that their economies are people-centered and support the advancement of small businesses and their communities.

What can you do?

-Travel: When you travel to new places, think about every purchase you make and experience you have as an investment in the local community. Check out the UN’s traveler guide to sustainable tourism here